12 August 1999
Prescott backs rural affairs ministry

DEPUTY PM John Prescott has agreed to the creation of a new ministry of rural affairs by the hiving off of part of his department, reports The Daily Telegraph.

He had previously resisted attempts to reduce the size of his department of the environment, transport and the regions.

But the newspaper reports that he is now happy for countryside matters to handled by a reconstituted ministry of agriculture, fisheries and food.

The creation of a rural affairs ministry is currently being considered by the government. It is expected to be an option in a rural affairs White Paper expected in the first half of next year.

Tony Blair, the prime minister, is thought to be in favour of a new rural affairs ministry because it would help the government to counter criticisms levelled at its management of rural affairs by the Countryside Alliance.